The question stopped me cold, during last week’s therapy session.
I had to stop and think. The mind goes down a list, starting with partners (plural – one ex and one husband) first. When you’re just coming off of the addiction that is a narcissistic relationship, your mind is wired to automatically think of them first. But I had to cross him off the potential list immediately, because whatever nourishment I thought he had provided was no longer true, and likely never was.
The mind then proceeds down the list, next person: husband? Hell no, which is why I have another relationship in my books in the first place. Well, that’s it for partners, what about other close friends?
Thank whatever/whomever-you-want that I do share strong bonds with some excellent female friends. My Amazing Bestie from childhood and a former junior high school teacher-turned-dear-close-friend are two of those. Thankfully again, the former actually lives close by now, after having lived many states apart for almost two decades.
The timing could not have been better, for both of us.
Other sources of nourishment include good online friends with whom I text on a fairly regular basis (extremely thankful for them too!!), as well as a few fellow bloggers, the occasional testimonial-grade compliments from clientele, and the purring, snuggling, and attention from my kitties.
That reminded me that nourishment can come from multiple sources, sources you might not think of right away. It can even come from internal sources like hobbies, or ethereal sources, such as religious or spiritual beliefs and figures.
Nourishment is vital; thank goodness it’s also versatile.
(Lots of thanking going on here. Because it is important to recognize the Good Stuff, and there is always Good Stuff, even if you’re in pain, even when you’re recovering from a kick to the soul.)
There’s one nourisher I haven’t mentioned yet, which is arguably the most important one.
Ready for it, gorgeous ones?
As survivors of narcissistic abuse, we’re likely empathetic, kind, and compassionate people. We spent our entire lives nourishing others, developing kindness and gentleness in the face of abuse. We retained our light through the storms. We made it.
However, lost in the hurricane winds were ourselves. Too many of us, myself included, have/had put ourselves aside, even outright denying our own needs or suppressing our own voices or deferring to others’ wishes, at the expense of ourselves.
We may have gone along to a bar when we really only wanted a night at home. We might’ve attempted to figure out what’s wrong (this time) for their benefit when we simply could’ve ignored their vibe and proceeded anyway. We might’ve had that extra glass of wine, to accompany theirs, when we were already pretty loose. We might not have asked for the remote control, despite being in the mood for a certain movie or TV show. We might’ve given in and gone to bed with them when we had a genuine headache. We took care of them when they were sick; we might’ve taken care of ourselves when we were sick; nobody else did.
It’s perfectly okay to do these things maybe half the time, because relationships are give and take.
But to be the only one doing that kind of heavy lifting, on a daily basis, while the narcissist does nothing of the sort for you?
Sweetness, that’s not the way to fly.
Now, it’s important that I direct my energies inward. One of my very dear blogger/texting friends (we’ll call her Wiser Sister) advised me to ask myself: what do *I* want?
If I’m honest with myself, I want to be able to live on my own, standing solid on my own two feet, without needing to have or depending on a partner. Whether or not I stay in my marriage (a legitimate question up for inner debate at this point), I at least want to be able to leave if I choose; knowing that I’d be secure and stable on my own. Even if I don’t opt for freedom (yet?), I would at least like the freedom to choose freedom, if that makes sense.
And that is indeed a big “if”. I have indeed been kicking around the idea of putting all the narcissists in my life on the chopping block, even if that includes my husband. Maybe with the exception of my father, because due to extremely rare circumstances, he is mostly reformed and actually no longer displays many narcissistic characteristics at all.
But that’s another story.
My story is what’s important to me right now, and that is my here and now. Here and now, I’ve been envisioning a possible future, the future that I want. It diverges into one of two options.
Option 1 – My husband (Mr Neglectful Narcissist, who is otherwise pretty mild on the narcissism spectrum, and most of the foundational traits are quite subtle) does a serious about-face. He differs from most narcissists in that he has only two primary behaviors that I take issue with – 1) lack of physical intimacy – there’s affection unless I ask for it, and 2) lack of emotional/psychological/cognitive/verbal intimacy – he remains a locked vault, disclosing nothing to me and sharing nothing with me.
Option 2 – I formulate a financial (and legal) game-plan and leave my husband entirely, setting out on my own path that does not include him, except perhaps continuing to work the business together, if that would even be possible. Knowing him, and knowing me, we probably actually could. Alternatively, I enter into a different field altogether, and we may or may not remain casual friends.
Time will tell which option I pick. Or, perhaps I’ll pick Option 1 first, and then end up choosing Option 2 eventually anyway.
Either way, everybody needs nourishment from someone, somewhere, on a regular basis, and I’m no different. I need nourishment from whatever partner I have in my life, whether that’s my current husband or someone else, or…no one else, in the case of being single.
Without proper nourishment, recovery from narcissistic relationships is nearly impossible.
So, right now, I’m thankful to have dear friends, some clientele at work, my kitties, my therapist, and myself, to nourish me.
Nourishing oneself is an acquired skill that’s often tricky to develop. I never really went for the “self-love” term, but I can get behind other terms like “self-care”, “self-respect”, “self-compassion”, “self-acceptance”, “self-nourishment”, and so on.
Nourishing oneself means caring for and about yourself, respecting yourself enough not to violate your own boundaries or allow anyone else to, accepting yourself for who you are (a balanced view between your strengths and challenges), being kind to yourself (without making flimsy excuses to avoid taking proper responsibility), moderating that Inner Critic, considering yourself and your needs/wants at least as much as you would consider those of others, and going easy on yourself when you mess up.
This means not being afraid to say “no”, not guilting yourself over how you “should” have ignored that text or that hoover attempt, not kicking yourself when you backslide in your recovery, having the self-respect to say “I’m not talking to you right now” or “I’ll say goodnight now” so that you can get proper sleep or your work done, not consistently giving in to other’s wants/needs before your own, actually speaking up when you have a different opinion or suggestion, and so on.
Too many times I remained silent when I should have spoken, continued trying to help when it was no use, sacrificed my own sleep, work, or school in order to hammer out an issue that will never be resolved, didn’t ask when I needed that hug, went along with a household or business strategy instead of insisting that my (more rational) idea was the right one, swept an important topic under the rug instead of daring to address it for our own good, did favors for people without receiving anything in return, loaned money that would never be paid back, cared more about someone than they cared about me or even themselves, given the benefit of the doubt when I already knew the opposite, ignored my gut when it screamed at me, accepted the answer I knew was a lie, noted but then wrote off red flags when they popped up, and on and on.
No more. Now the object of the game is to cut that open, flowing energy channel off, diverting it from them and refocusing it onto me. What can I do for myself today? How can I enhance my own physical, mental, cognitive, financial, and/or spiritual wellbeing? What advice would I give to someone in my own position?
Hello, self, how can I nourish you today? 🙂